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Another Special Week Ahead for Abilene!

May 7, 2021Doug Peters, President & CEO for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

Just when you thought you’d have a chance to catch your breath from all the activity from last week’s Small Business Week, hold on to your hat because this week is another special one for our great city.

And while there won’t be multiple events to celebrate and recognize the achievements of so many, it’s important nonetheless that we collectively pause to really think about this one.

Beginning today, Economic Development Week kicks off across our nation, and certainly here at home.

What is National Economic Development Week, you ask?

It’s an opportunity to really wrap our arms around what economic development is, the men and women whose job it is (that would be you – I’ll explain) and the impact that the effort has in communities across the country.

Let me clarify the point above.

Economic development is and always has been the job of every man, woman and child in this or any other community. You are an important ambassador for our city. It’s up to all of us to speak and reflect favorably on our city and to cheer for its success. Afterall, it’s our collective success in creating jobs and attracting capital investment that makes the world go ‘round.

You’ve heard Mayor Anthony Williams say more than once, “this city won’t be good enough for any of us until it’s good enough for all of us.” He’s spot on. As the Mayor puts it, jobs provide dignity. They provide hope. And they can mean the difference in sustaining one’s existence and actually living. Living a good life. Everyone deserves a good life.

But let’s think about the impact that jobs have in our city. Jobs create wealth, they provide benefits, they provide a sense of purpose, and those jobs also generate taxes that pay for essential services like police and fire, health and human services, and roads and bridges. I know from experience that jobs can stop bullets, too. Give a person a job and they have a means of providing for themselves and their families and don’t necessarily need to resort to other means to survive.

The real beauty of job creation is that they add to our tax base, rather than causing government to realize the need to raise taxes. More people contributing to the tax base lessens the load for everyone.

Locally, this week also allows us the opportunity to say thank you to those who have worked so hard to ensure Abilene’s prosperity for generations before us.

If you look at our city’s history, you’ll note that “economic development” began more than 112 years ago with the creation of the “25,000 Committee.” Any idea what that was? It was an economic development effort (so-to-speak) intended to grow Abilene’s population to 25,000. And while the effort fell short, it set the stage for the great city we are today.

Fast forward a few years and you’ll see that our beloved Dyess Air Force Base was, at that time, a means to economic security. A group of folks, whose interests it was to grow our city and provide economic diversity, bought up some 5,000 acres of land on the western outskirts of our city and offered it to the Pentagon to establish a military installation. Boom (no pun intended) – Dyess was born. And while Dyess means so much more to us today than “just” an economic engine (Dyess circulates more than $1.5 million daily through our region), we can’t deny that the Base has indelibly added to who we are. And who we always want to be.

And finally, let’s think about today. Just a few short weeks ago, we learned that Great Lakes Cheese Company would locate a large packaging and distribution facility in our city. A $103 BILLION economic impact over the next 10 years. More than 500 jobs with benefits, including company ownership by its employees. You want to know what’s really special about that announcement? The company’s commitment to use local resources to build and operate its facility. And you, as a small business in Abilene, Texas, can participate. If you haven’t signed up yet to become a GLC vendor/contractor, you can do so easily, here.  

And so, the story goes that people like you – drivers of this economy and passionate investors in our great city – sitting together in a room much like the one I’m in while writing to you today, can and do make great things happen. There’s no fairy dust or secret sauce. Economic development is a competitive process that requires a whole bunch of like-minded people all pulling in the same direction. When economic development becomes politicized, the people (you) needed to ensure a community’s economic success tend to scatter as if it’s putting off a putrid smell. I’ve seen it in other communities. When that happens, community’s shift from offense to defense and much becomes lost – momentum, opportunity and even community reputation.

So do take a few minutes this week to say thank you to our area’s job creators and employers, the elected officials who work to ensure a pro-business environment and those who spend many sleepless nights ensuring that jobs are plentiful and secure for all who want them.

And most of all, think about your messaging when you talk about your city to others. You’re the real salesperson. We can continue to work like crazy to improve the “product” that is Abilene, Texas, so that it’s saleable to those looking to invest. But what comes out on the street or in casual conversations with others truly defines who we are. Especially when it comes to first impressions.

Thankfully, our city is loved by those of us who call it home. Let’s keep it that way. A rising tide lifts all ships, as they say.

Onward!

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